Shrimp ‘n’ Grits

… Or prawns and polenta, as they say in England

Another piece of American cooking, though Southern, not Cajun, this time

And what a lovely dinner in 10minutes flat

Some shallot, chilli and lardons sweated down til brown and sticky

Wet polenta with heaps of grated cheddar takes 4 minutes tops

Then some big, plump Fin and Flounder prawns tossed in to the hot pan of bacon with garlic, parsley, chives and lemon zest

Lemon squeezed over the top gives it a bit of a wake-up

What a beautiful little dish

I know grits are a wholesome and humble thing, so probably shouldn’t actually sit down with expensive, fancy prawns – but it does make it feel like a little indulgence

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Risotto of the Holy Limes

As the amazing Lisbon begins to feel like an increasingly distant memory, I thought I’d better start putting up the food…

The pinnacle of our food experience in Lisbon was this, the Risotto of the Holy Limes

The story is almost disgustingly sweet (I still like it), but the risotto was perfect

It began with limes picked from the trees in the church in Alfama, and the sweet lime leaves and prawns from the stall in the INCREDIBLE Fish Market in Ribeiro

Then a fish stock made with bream heads and prawn shells, fennel, pimentos and pink peppercorns

The lesson learned from CourtBouillon – a tiny slice of holy lime hidden at the bottom of each plate.  A risotto finished with local cheese, parsley, sweet lime and chilli

The end result?  A delicately fishy and spicy risotto that was both rich and fresh.  Beautifully pink and flavoured by the shells, creamy from the cheese and zesty and clean because of the herbs.

Maybe the best thing I’ve ever cooked.  Definitely the best way to spend a 24th birthday night, in the best apartment/present I’ve ever stayed in/been given

Thanks Steph

CourtBouillon (Attempt 2)

Not to be deterred by the disastrous first attempt, we stepped back into the ring with CourtBouillion ebulliently.

Having post-humously diagnosed the cause of our defeat on attempt 1 via transatlantic phone calls with some hardened, bonafide CourtBouillon professionals, we began with another fish stock:

Grey Mullet the fish of choice this time.  It’s a really underrated fish – fleshy, flavourful with a skin that can be crisped.  Great fast fried, but strong enough to hold together in a slow stew.  And cheap too – known as it is in CourtBoullion’s home country as mere bait fish.

PLAIN Flour. The missing link in our last attempt.  Hey presto, the roux gently sweetened our onions, green pepper and celery, instead of clinging and clagging around them as before:

Then the tomato, spices and seasonings work their magic with the fish.

The result?  The favourite Cajun dish I’ve come across.  Served upside down, built upwards atop a slice of lemon (what a good idea), it is eccentric.

Fresher and lighter than you’d expect, but still rich and satisfying.

Happy tummies, and soothed egos, all round.

Credit (entire credit), of course, to the Cajun Queen – @snooman

CourtBouillon gone wrong

Well.  What can be said about this debacle?

The pictures will tell their own story

After 3 genuinely shocked, shocking and failed rouxs, it dawned upon us that the flour was self raising, and our spirits sank

We should have been forlorn.  We had genius Caper Martinis instead.

We took the fish stock we had made by boiling the fish remains with veg:

We whipped up a mayo, adding celery leaves, some more capers and lemon juice and zest…

We boiled rice in the oven with the fish stock we had made – a revelation that gives a sticky rice-like texture, and an incredible flavour.

We roasted up our Trout fillets over wine, lemon, celery, bay and seasonings…

And we served with some Samphire fried in dried chilli…

A lesson learned about how to treat flour and butter.

Another victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.

I’m still waiting for a food disaster that makes us sad.

Pan Roast Salmon. Chilli Courgettes. Lemon Fennel and Rocket. Oven-Dried Tomatoes.

After a sumptuous 90 minute bus ride on the regal 55 bus in 30 degree heat next to a 60 year old Nigerian woman who had what I can only assume was a conference call with her most mortal enemies directly into my ear for the duration of the journey, I wasn’t exactly feeling chirpy.

When I got in, Fern told me about some top secret ideas she has had about making the world a bit happier.

I’m not the first person to be won over recently by the unrelenting Trelfa brand of optimism (http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/news/gated/1082457/).  Having combined this with some much needed restoration from the ever brilliant Snooman, who manages sweaty, deafened, late, grumpy boyfriends with unwavering aplomb, I felt reinvigorated and we decided we should get cooking a cheerful summer dinner.

The tomatoes become a zillion times sweeter and stronger from an hour and a half drying in a low heat brushed with basil oil.

Yellow courgettes fried with chilli and garlic, lemon zest and fennel quickly tossed in a pan with rocket.

Salmon pan roasted for not much more than a minute in a little butter to develop a crispy brown skin.

Happy, empty plates at the end – even though I think I overcooked the salmon.  Another reason that it’s good to have optimistic friends and generous girlfriends – they like your food even when it isn’t perfect.

Lobster Thermidor

This is a very tardy upload.

It was cooked in Southwold in the old fisherman’s hut.  The lobster came from the shack 1 minute down the harbour from said hut.

This is uncommonly complicated to make, so I won’t be boring and post it.  But, on the right occasion it is worth it, and in this instance that was certainly the case.